A Lords EU Committee have today called on the Government to overcome the UK's lack of mobility culture, including by making language learning compulsory in primary and secondary schools. Coupled with financial, socioeconomic and cultural barriers, the Lords Social Policies and Consumer Protection EU Sub-Committee warns that the UK's future participation in mobility programmes, such as the EU's Erasmus scheme, cannot be assured.
The Committee's report, The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe, published today, is the culmination of its inquiry into the EU's contribution to the modernisation of European higher education, including the role of the separate Bologna Process.
The Committee also calls on the Government to ensure the continuation of the domestic Erasmus fee waiver scheme and support the proposed development of the EU Masters-level student loan guarantee facility. They believe that both of these measures will help more students, and those who are disadvantaged in particular.
Other recommendations made by the Committee include:
- encouraging the Government and universities to take full advantage of the opportunities provided through engagement with the EU and Bologna Process, including greater university-business collaboration and widening participation;
- allocating a bigger proportion of EU funds to research, innovation and education in order to assist the EU's long-term economic recovery;
- encouraging the Government to "remain vigilant" about retaining the UK's higher education sector's competitive position as a destination of choice for many students from other parts of Europe and beyond, particularly following the increase in tuition fees; and
- not making the Commission's proposal for the introduction of the new university ranking system, U-Multirank, a priority.
The Committee's Chairman, Baroness Young of Hornsey, said:
"There's no question that the EU can continue to play a significant role in helping Member States modernise their higher education systems, in addition to the ongoing role of the Bologna Process. However, the Commission must be pragmatic and concentrate on areas where it can truly add value, while not losing sight of Member States' primary role in education policy.
The Erasmus programme, in particular, is an excellent scheme, which rightly enjoys a strong reputation across Europe and which helps to deliver the kind of well-rounded graduates we want to see entering the job market. However, the UK's participation has been historically low compared to other large Member States. Making language learning compulsory in both primary and secondary school would be one way of increasing the UK's participation in addition to taking steps to ensure a more diverse range of participants.
The Government must place higher education at the heart of their growth agenda in order to maintain and contribute to the economic and social wealth of the UK and Europe as a whole. In the immediate few months, this will require the Government to negotiate ambitiously to allocate a greater proportion of the long-term EU budget to research, innovation and education, including the Erasmus programme."